WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley on Tuesday warned Chief Justice John Roberts to stay out of the Senate’s fight over the Supreme Court’s vacancy, accusing the current court of being overly political.
The Iowa Republican said “the chief justice should resist” interjecting himself in the Senate debate after some had suggested he do so. And Grassley criticized comments made by Roberts before the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, saying the confirmation process has become too political.
Ten days before Scalia’s death, Roberts suggested that “a sharply political, divisive hearing process” increases the chance that the person confirmed is also that way.
On the Senate floor, Grassley said Roberts’ comments justify Republicans’ decision to block President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill Scalia’s seat, Judge Merrick Garland, in an election year. But he also turned Roberts’ comments back on the court.
“The confirmation process has gotten political precisely because the court itself has drifted from the Constitutional text and rendered decisions based instead on policy preferences,” Grassley said. “In short, the justices themselves have gotten political.”
Grassley did not refer to any specific cases in his speech.
He also criticized Roberts for trying to counter the perception by some Americans that the court has become politicized.
“I think he is concerned with the wrong problem,” Grassley said. “He would be well-served to address the reality, not perception, that too often there is little difference between the actions of the court and the actions of the political branches. So, physician, heal thyself.”
Roberts was nominated to the court by a Republican, former President George W. Bush. The chief justice has been a target in the Republican presidential race, with Donald Trump criticizing Sen. Ted Cruz for his support for Roberts.
Grassley is not the first senator to criticize the Supreme Court from the Senate. Last summer, Cruz referred to members of the Supreme Court as “rogue justices” and “robed Houdinis” after a 6-3 decision to uphold Obama’s health care law. Roberts voted with the majority on that case.
As for the six justices who comprised the majority in the decision, the Texas senator said, “They are lawless, and they hide their prevarication in legalese.”
Harry Houdini was an early 20th-century magician who specialized in escaping from jails, straitjackets, coffins and other seemingly inescapable surroundings.
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